Monday, September 07, 2009

Who do you say I am?

I am preparing Sunday's address, and reading Mark 8:27-38. As I have read I have been struck by how the dialogue between Jesus, the disciples and the crowd progresses.

Jesus begins asking the disciples who the crowd say he is. Then he asks the disciples themselves who they think he is. There is also from the beginning of this section, an assumption by Peter that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter is right, in a way...

The sort of Messiah that Jesus is one that flies in the face of what Peter and the Judaism of his day were expecting. The Messiah as a concept was a 'blank screen' onto which people could project their hopes and dreams.

The prevolant Messianic dream lying behind the Gospels and in the public mind at the time, was of a mighty militaristic leader, someone who with political and military might would remove Roman rule and introduce the Kingdom of God by force. Was this the Messiah that Peter proclaimed?

Jesus subtly switches the language he uses to describe himself from politically loaded 'Messiah'
to 'Son of Man' and Peter expresses the shock of a faithful generation - how could this Messianic Son of Man have his mission fail in suffering and death?

The question of Jesus' identity is not one though that can be simply answered with a 'this' or 'that.' We can only begin to answer the ultimate question through reading the accounts of Jesus' life, accounts which tell us much about Jesus' life, words and actions.

We have to keep coming back to the Gospels to understand who Jesus is because those accounts consistently challenge our assumptions of who Jesus is too. The Creeds need these stories to understand what it says we believe.

So why is Jesus so abrasive with Peter? Because the only people who have got Jesus' identity right in the Gospels are demons. Is Peter really on Satan's side? Only in the sense that Peter is trying to impose his vision of Messiahship on Jesus rather than watching, listening and learning from Jesus himself.

Everything hinges on this. If our lives and their landscapes are not shaped and reshaped by God and faith in Jesus as the Suffering Messiah, then we are not disciples of the Kingdom but of our own making. This is why to be a follower of Jesus, we are consistently challenged not just to leave our comfort zone and follow, but find our whole world challenged and reshaped as a cross.

Jesus asks who we say he is and we must answer for ourselves. Our answer will determine what sort of a disciple we are - not just ones that speak the truth about him, but who see Jesus for who who he really is and following him wherever he leads regardless of what we do or do not understand.

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